EMLyon’s New Dean: Here’s How We Will Break Into Europe’s Top 10

EMLyon, currently ranked 21st in Europe and 80th in the world by The Financial Times, is about to undergo some major changes. EMLyon photo

Tawhid Chtioui recently became dean of French business school EMLyon at a very interesting time in its history. The 140-year-old school, which is based in Lyon, a little less than 500 kilometers southeast of Paris, has just sold stakes to a consortium that includes a private equity house, a move that could radically change its future. Chtioui says EMLyon has sold an initial 14% each to the state-linked Qualium Investissement and Bpifrance Investissement for a total of €40 million, with plans to offer further stakes to both investors as part of a €100 million fundraising campaign. In 2022 the school will open its new campus in the center of the city.

Poets&Quants caught up with Dean Chtioui to talk about his ambitions for the B-school, one of Europe’s oldest that is currently ranked 21st in Europe and 80th in the world by The Financial Times, and the main MBA provider in France’s second city.

PQ: You became dean in April. What is your aim for the school?

TC: I want it to be in the top 10 in Europe. The way we’ll do that is not necessarily through increasing the number of students in the existing programs, but through hybridization: offering a multidisciplinary education. We want to acquire an engineering school, and to create or acquire a design school. Also, we want to invest in new intelligences. We have an Institute for AI in Management, and we also want to invest in emotional intelligence and an institute for social business.

What programs will you focus on? The MBA? The MiM? Undergraduate degrees? 

We will create new products, mainly in executive education. We spend four years with undergraduates, and then wait 10 years for them to get into managerial positions. With executive and custom programs, impact is direct and immediate and solves problems people have now.

How has the new ownership structure helped shape Emlyon’s future?

Tawhid Chtioui, EMLyon’s new dean. EMLyon photo

Due to government reforms we get less funding now. We can’t raise as much from alumni as Stanford or Oxford — maybe €750,000 a year. Recently a consortium consisting of a state-owned investment entity, Bpifrance Investissement, and a private equity firm, Qualium Investissement, became shareholders.

They have invested €40m in the school with another €60m promised over the next five years. The investors are experts in developing businesses, so they can help us grow. We have a “golden rule” that the school has total control over what we teach, though.

And you are developing a new campus? 

Yes. It opens in the center of Lyon in 2022, and we want it to be a hub for the city. In the past, cities were built around universities. Today universities and higher-education institutions are far from the city, with ever-higher barriers to access.

We need to open our business schools and universities to society, so the first two floors of our campus will be completely open; we want to break down walls, to open business to science and the arts to create connections, and to have more local impact.

You previously ran EMLyon’s operations in Casablanca, Morocco. How has that shaped your outlook? 

Business education is increasingly standardized. There are expectations of what it looks like, and pressure from rankings and accreditation. But what works in Europe or the U.S. doesn’t work everywhere. The entrepreneurship of Harvard Business School is not the entrepreneurship of Morocco.

Our first mission is to create an impact on society. So we have to produce something for local needs. To be a global business school is not to replicate the same thing everywhere, it is to be multi-local, with links between campuses. We plan to accelerate our internationalization. We have a campus in Morocco and partnerships with schools in India and China. We want to increase investment there, and also move into sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

If all of these locations need their own programs, what is the strand that runs through an EMLyon education? 

The understanding that work is evolving quickly. We don’t know the problems of tomorrow, the technology that will be used, the jobs that will be created, or the new managerial practices. So our mission is to use hybrid programs to give people flexibility, the ability to think and act quickly, to innovate, to understand, to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

That sounds interesting, but outcomes like “flexibility” are hard to measure. Will this focus affect your rankings? 

Our educational mission doesn’t have to be measured only in terms of things like salary after graduation. We can measure our impact on society, and we can measure emotional or social intelligence. For instance, we could measure the percentage of graduates working in NGOs, or the number of jobs and companies graduates create. We can measure diversity, or the percentage of student societies linked with CSR activities.

And we don’t have to measure the first job after graduation—we could look at the third or fourth, and measure that against what we promised. We need to have a different system and we need to push it. And we need to set an example.


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